“Broncos from abroad” is a first-hand account of Australian exchange student Jack Muirhead’s experiences and observations on cultural differences between American and numerous international students at Boise State.
Part One: Culture Clash
Each semester, Boise State receives a few hundred international students. In fact, according to Kumi Takashima, student office assistant at International Student Services, each semester the university hosts between 100 and 250 students, with fall semester being the busiest time.
Currently, there are roughly 600 international students attending Boise State.
Why Boise you may ask? For most it is as simple as the opportunity of a better or different education. A few students arrive on scholarships, but some really just want to know if “Friday Night Lights” is real.
“Boise seemed like a good mix of city life, outdoor activity and the real America,” said Benãt Lecuona, international student from Spain.
While they come to Boise for different lengths of time, different reasons and to study different subjects, international students are all witness to a new country and a new culture.
The majority are happy to stand back and become a part of it at their own pace, while others actively seek to immerse themselves by registering for clubs, joining sororities or fraternities and going to every Bronco’s game.
“We love the free Rec Center and pool. Plus the climbing wall is awesome,” said Soren Toft Kjelstrup, a Danish exchange student. “The outdoor trips are new to us, so we signed up for the rafting and hiking.”
For many, there are huge cultural differences found in nearly every aspect of life. In Australia, for example, where the legal drinking age is 18, alcohol plays the role of social outlet. Universities have bars and freshmen can be seen socializing over cold beers after class. This is a big contrast to a dry campus where plenty of students don’t drink.
The dating scene, as a result, is vastly different. Australia has far more students who are not in relationships and the culture of drinking and partying emphasizes socializing and courting.
It is common for Australian students to remain single from the ages of 18-24, roughly university age, where it seems a large percentage of American students of the same age are in steady relationships.
Australian clubs and bars are dating hotspots and most Australians don’t settle into relationships until their late twenties.
“Australia has more of a ‘hook-up’ culture and people are more inclined to dancing,” said Shaun Hutchinson, international student from Australia. “Boise locals love to just drink and talk which is fine, just different to what we are used to back home.”
Another major difference between the countries is the general behavior and demeanor of university students.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly why, but Australian students are more guarded when meeting new people.
On the contrary, American college students are friendly, inquisitive and happy to share their stories with people they barely know. In comparison, it can be hard to get to know Australian people.
That is not to say they are rude or unfriendly to foreigners. They are polite and will exchange pleasantries, but unless you strike a chord of interest, the conversation will often be shallow.
This could be attributed to a culture where youth are often very opinionated and proud of the choices they make. Australia is a young country and its youth are still trying to find their place in the world.
Culture in America is extremely interesting and a great experience for foreign students. What they get out of it is up to them.
Regardless of whether or not they end up with a cheerleader, they will remember their time in Boise for the rest of their lives.
“We made enough memories and my buddy has about 500 photos in two weeks,” said Miguel Alvarado, international student from Mexico. “I don’t think I will ever forget my time here.”